Chapters 1–3

Summary: Chapter 1

Katherine Danziger, a high school senior who lives in Westfield, New Jersey, narrates the story. Katherine introduces Sybil Davison, the cousin of her friend Erica Small, who lives in Summit, New Jersey. Katherine describes Sybil as very smart, overweight, and sexually experienced. Katherine and Erica attend Sybil’s New Year’s Eve fondue party. There, Katherine meets Sybil’s classmate and friend, Michael Wagner, who came to the party with his date, Elizabeth Hailey. Michael, who wears glasses and has reddish-blond hair, attends high school in Summit. Katherine and Erica sleep over at Sybil’s and talk about Michael, who asked Erica for Katherine’s name and number. Katherine describes Erica as four-foot-ten, outgoing, and uninhibited. The next day when Michael stops by Sybil’s to pick up his records as an excuse to see Katherine, he asks Katherine to go for a ride with him. 

Summary: Chapter 2

Katherine and Michael drive around for a while, park, and then take a walk while holding hands. They share details about their activities and the colleges they’ve applied to. Michael says he wants to teach Katherine to ski. When Michael drops Katherine back at Sybil’s house, he kisses her.

Summary: Chapter 3

Katherine tells her mother, Diana Danziger, a children’s librarian, about Michael. Katherine’s younger sister Jamie, a talented artist who is in seventh grade, asks if Katherine is in love again. Katherine dated Tommy Aronson the year before, but they had broken up because he was only interested in sex. However, unlike Tommy, Michael shows interest in Katherine and calls her regularly. On the phone, Michael and Katherine get to know each other more and make a date for Friday night. Michael arrives to pick Katherine up and meets her parents, who are hooking a rug that Jamie designed. Michael expresses appreciation for Jamie’s brightly colored artwork and for Diana’s plants, which decorate the house. 

At the movies, Michael and Katherine hold hands. Afterward, Michael suggests they park somewhere private, but Katherine explains that her parents would rather she and Michael return to her home than hang out somewhere potentially unsafe. When Michael and Katherine return to her house, both of her parents are asleep. Katherine and Michael make out. When Michael tries to put his hands under Katherine’s sweater, she stops him, and he asks if she’s a virgin.

Analysis: Chapters 1–3

Katherine’s relationship with Tommy illustrates that in the past Katherine was infatuated with her love interests but may not have been in love with them. She believed strongly that she was in love even though her entire relationship with Tommy lasted only three months. Not only was the relationship short-lived, but Tommy also repeatedly pressured Katherine into having sex before she was ready, suggesting that he may not have even deserved her love. Despite how rational Katherine is, she struggles with understanding the difference between the rush of lust, the daze of infatuation, and the actual feeling of love. However, Katherine recognizes that she was too rash in her relationship with Tommy and is slow to call her new interest in Michael love. This hesitation lasts throughout the first part of the novel, suggesting that Katherine is learning how to be patient through the infatuation stage so she can be sure she is experiencing love. Katherine’s relationship with Tommy also immediately foreshadows the idea of young relationships rarely lasting forever.

This section also explores the tension between listening to the opinions of others and forming one’s own beliefs. Throughout these early chapters, Katherine looks to other people’s opinions of her to understand who she is. Katherine considers Erica’s opinion that her sarcasm is due to insecurity but she doesn’t accept it as fact. Katherine’s journey in Forever is about figuring out who she is and what she wants without relying on what other people tell her she should be and want. When Katherine is with Michael, she wonders repeatedly if what Michael observes about her is good or bad. When they say goodbye, Katherine’s not able to fully express what she wants, illustrating the gap between who Katherine is and how she expresses herself to others. She wonders what Michael is attracted to about her and tries to use his perception of her as a mirror. Throughout the novel, Katherine learns to balance the perceptions and opinions of others with her developing ideas.